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Public Policy & Gender Equality Rights – Q4 2023 Facts & Findings

Many of us are familiar with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that essentially requires equal pay for equal work and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects employees and job applicants in the US from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Yet, in 2023, we still read articles about global investment banks like Goldman Sachs settling a decade-long, class-action lawsuit (with approximately 2,800 female associates and vice presidents) for $215 million dollars over allegations of gender pay discrimination. That is interesting considering that, in 2020, Goldman Sachs CEO, David Solomon, publicly stated that the bank would not take companies public without at least one “diverse” board member, further stating that the focus was on women. Progress with gender equality rights takes two steps forward and one back.

According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) website, the following examples of gender disparities persist:

  • The gender pay gap persists in the entire US workforce, but the wage gap for federal workers is smaller (7 cents on the dollar in 2017). Most of this gap cannot be explained by measurable differences between men and women. The gap is greater for certain groups of women, including Hispanics/Latinas, Blacks, and American Indians or Alaska Natives.
  • Women are underrepresented on publicly-traded company boards—which make decisions that affect the lives of millions of people and influence the policies and practices of the global marketplace.
  • Women age 65 and over have less retirement income on average than men and are more likely to live in poverty. Women are also more likely than men to provide care for a parent or spouse, which can adversely affect their jobs, retirement assets, and income.
  • Women are still largely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Additionally, female students in engineering and medical majors experience sexual harassment significantly more than female students in non-STEM fields.

Sometimes lesser known is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. As of April 2022, 189 countries have ratified CEDAW, agreeing to be legally bound by the treaty’s provisions. The United States is one of only seven countries that has not ratified CEDAW (since President Carter signed it in 1980 with five failed ratification attempts in the Senate in 1988, 1990, 1994, 2000, and 2010), along with Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga. However, several cities have adopted CEDAW ordinances, including San Francisco, CA (the first city in the world to adopt a CEDAW ordinance in 1998); Berkeley, CA; Honolulu, HI; Los Angeles, CA; Miami-Dade County, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; and Washington, DC.

The United Nation’s website for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women states that:

The CEDAW treaty is a tool that helps women around the world to bring about change in their daily life. In countries that have ratified the treaty, CEDAW has proved invaluable in opposing the effects of discrimination, which include violence, poverty, and lack of legal protections, along with the denial of inheritance, property rights, and access to credit.

Even 17 local counties, cities, and municipalities have adopted CEDAW ordinances, according to the Cities for CEDAW website, which further states:

The Cities for CEDAW campaign hopes to increase awareness of, strong support for CEDAW implementation and demonstrate its usefulness as a tool for achieving gender equity: in political participation and representation, in income and earnings, in access to healthcare throughout the life cycle and in public and personal safety. Adopting CEDAW as local law has been proven to effectively address barriers that reduce the quality of life and equity of opportunity for women and girls.

While ordinary citizens may perceive the shaping of public policy as overwhelming or out of reach, acquiring more knowledge around gender equality rights is one step in the direction of creating a more just and equitable society for all. Find a way to get involved, whether that be by contacting your local elected representative and inquiring about a CEDAW ordinance or joining a board or commission in your area that supports similar efforts. As the famed American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


CEDAW Cities

Author Biography: 

Kristine Custodio Suero, ACP, is an award-winning legal professional, a published author, and a highly sought-after speaker. A true servant leader, she has led the San Diego Paralegal Association and California Alliance of Paralegal Associations as President. Kristine teaches legal courses for a local San Diego paralegal program and lends her time to the program’s advisory board. Kristine is the Chair of the NALA Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee and a past member of the NALA Professional Development Committee and Continuing Education Council. She is also the former Ethics Chair. Kristine is a Senior Paralegal/Business Development Director for Butterfield Schechter LLP and may be reached at